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May 8, 2020

Kegels: Not the Miracle Exercise We’ve Been Sold

by Kaleena Ruskin

Doctors, OBGYNs, doulas, midwives, your mom, your girlfriends, literally everyone has been telling us to do Kegels to help out our pelvic floor. Do them in the shower, in the car, while you’re watching TV, while you’re having a conversation, while you’re running, do them all day every day to make sure your vagina doesn’t fall out and that your pelvic floor is tighter than security at the Pentagon. “Get it right, get it tight!”, right? WRONG. Your pelvic floor is not some rigid structure that needs to be securely locked in place at all times. It’s a complex network of muscles that move in conjunction with the rest of your body. They have the ability to lengthen, expand, contract, load, and unload just like every other muscle in your body. So, why do we even do them?

Did You Know: Kegels were first described and published by American doctor Arnold Kegel in 1948?

Does anyone else have an issue with the fact that the Miracle Exercise for women was prescribed by a man? *Insert face palm followed by cursing mouth emoji* A Kegel is a conscious contraction and then relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles. They’ve been said to cure incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and to help prepare the pelvic floor muscle for labor and delivery. 1 in 3 women suffer from some form of pelvic core dysfunction, and 50% of women deal with incontinence at some point in their life. Have you been doing kegels for the last 10 years and still have incontinence when you sneeze, laugh, jump, or run? Guess what? Your pelvic floor is not the problem.

What if I told you that your pelvic floor was part of a bigger picture? What if I told you that in function (running, laughing, and child labor) that your pelvic floor is part of a complex system that has to work harmoniously and subconsciously in order for it to function properly. Still not convinced? When you sneeze is your pelvic floor the only thing that contracts or do you feel your abs squeeze together to violently project that fresh spring pollen out of your nose? When you’re giving birth, do you simply push with your pelvic floor or do you brace with every fiber in your body? Have you tried to Kegel when you laugh or while you run? You shouldn’t have to because the pelvic floor should function subconsciously, without you thinking about it! The pelvic floor is actually a component of the Pelvic Core Neuromuscular System (PCNS). Your PCNS is composed of your pelvic floor, abdominals, low back muscles, and your respiratory diaphragm. This is one giant fascial network of muscles that work with each other to support our bodies from the inside out. Your pelvic floor is just one part of this major system, and your pelvic floor isn’t solely responsible for all PCNS dysfunction.

Almost every woman I’ve seen for PCNS dysfunction has had the same question, “What about Kegels?” and my answer is always, “Well that depends. Have you been doing kegels? Have things gotten better? No? Then stop doing them.” The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The assumption with most dysfunctions is that our pelvic floor is weak and needs to be strengthened, so that’s why we do Kegels. Brace yourselves ladies: it is actually possible to have a pelvic floor that is too tight. If you’ve had a vaginal birth, did you tear or have an episiotomy? Then you probably have scar tissue built up that doesn’t want to move.

Your pelvic floor actually needs to lengthen to help absorb changes in intra abdominal pressure (sneezing, laughing, coughing, running, jumping, etc). If it doesn’t….that pressure squeezes your bladder, and we were blessed with a plumbing system that has a direct line out in accordance with gravity, so you pee yourself. Your adductors (aka inner thigh muscles) as well as your obturator internus (fancy for small butt muscle at the base of the pelvis), directly connect to your pelvic floor muscles and therefore can influence pelvic floor mobility and strength. Got tight hips? That can cause pelvic floor dysfunction. If you have a tight hamstring, we foam roll and then stretch it. If you have tight shoulders and neck muscles, and I told you to do shoulder shrugs to relieve that tension you would look at me like I’m crazy. Same concept applies for the pelvic floor. A Kegel is a conscious contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. If your pelvic floor is tight, then you are just making a tight muscle tighter. Kegels have their purpose, and can be productive, but they are not the miracle exercise cure all that we’ve been force fed. I’m not quite sure how we got to the understanding that Kegels help prevent and/or cure pelvic organ prolapse. Last I checked, my uterus and my bladder aren’t propped up by my pelvic floor. Sure, if my pelvic floor is so tight that I could make a diamond in there, then nothing is going to actually fall out. But, that doesn’t stop my pelvic organs from drooping or falling into the pelvic floor. We can, however, re-train the neuromuscular system around those tissues to support them and “pull” them back into place. How? Through intentional, integrated exercise and breath work. How do we know? We’ve done it.

Women have come to Gymnazo looking for hope and answers to their problems that doctors seem to brush off as “normal, just deal with it”. We’ve helped women avoid surgery, get back to jumping and running, and not have to cross their legs and hold their breath every time they sneeze. We’ve helped women eliminate chronic and debilitating back pain, have sex AND orgasms again! We’ve helped women reclaim their bodies. We did it without doing one freaking kegel, too. Your pelvic floor is a complex muscle group that is part of an integrated, subconscious neuromuscular system, and it has to be treated as such. If you’re fed up with Kegels, and haven’t gotten results please give us a call and look into our Female Core Conversion Class. It’s designed for any woman, at any stage of life, regardless of whether you had kids last year or 40 years ago, or never had kids and are just experiencing the joys of menopause.

Do you suffer from PCNS dysfunction? Take our quiz to evaluate your risk.

For more information on our class please visit our website

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